Brain-computer interfaces or BCI’s were just a fantasy not long ago, the stuff of science fiction. Luckily, advances in technology have allowed the theory to evolve into fully functional if still new tech. True to its name, BCI is a way for the human mind to connect to a computer. If that sounds a lot like mind reading, it is, just not in any mystic way. Originally, BCIs were meant to help people with paralysis, but they’ve evolved substantially, and the possibilities for the technology is opening up in new directions every day. What are Brain-Computer Interfaces, and can you invest in them?
How Are Modern Brain-Computer Interfaces Used?
A modern brain-computer interface can do numerous tasks. The job of a BCI is to acquire and analyze signals from the brain. Once, this might have been considered impossible, but brain signals, like computer signals, are electric. Once the BCI picks up a signal, it acts as a translator by turning the perceived intention into action or computer command. From measuring engagement and worker productivity to possibly controlling the smart homes of the future, BCI’s could someday take the place of phones, remote controls, and other connective technology. Beyond being exciting and novel, options like this could help cut down on plastic waste, enable remote working for virtually every sector, and give people more control over their lives. The type of connection used for brain-computer interfaces comes in two styles. First, there are noninvasive or wearable technologies. These go outside the body, and you can take them off. Secondly, there are invasive or physically integrated systems.
Real World Noninvasive BCIs
Noninvasive BCI’s are wearable technology, not unlike a Fitbit, except they pick up a brain signal instead of a pulse or body movement. Nurable made news when in 2017, it introduced the first BCI virtual reality video game. Players wear a VR helmet with integrated brain-computer interface tech. Perhaps too appropriately, the game Awakening lets the gamer play as a telekinetic child who picks things up with the power of their mind and moves them around to escape captivity in a dystopian future. The play style may be ominous, but there are real-world applications that are far less sinister. In conjunction with large BCI compatible machines on a construction site might allow workers to stay out of harm’s way while accomplishing tasks beyond normal human abilities. Meltin MMI has a similar concept using wearable sensors. However, this company is working to connect human minds with separate mechanical bodies. The initial project only involved a hand, but the possibilities are endless. Someday, tech like this might allow you to walk on the surface of an uninhabitable world using a robot body you control with a device from home.
Invasive Brain-Computer Interfaces
The second type of BCI is invasive, meaning it would need to be integrated into the body or even the brain. Companies such as Elon Musks’ Neuralink and Kernel are approaching brain-computer interfaces more literally by proposing to put computer components into the human head. Kernel first intended to implant neural chips into the human mind to help boost our intelligence. Sadly the technology for this idea is not yet fully realized. However, Kernel is still working to develop the necessary interface and hiring researchers. Meanwhile, Neuralink is integrating threadlike electrodes to allow Artificial Intelligence to interface with the human brain directly. Unlike Kernel, this process may begin testing as soon as this year.
The Potential Downside
There are notable negatives to brain-computer interface technology that no potential investor should ignore. It is vital to research and anticipate problems that may affect a stock’s worth. For example, Kernel jumped the gun in 2017 by announcing that it would boost human intellect with its incredible chip technology. That might be true someday, but for now, it’s still in development. Other concerns include the potential for abuse and even hacking. It is unlikely that any form of brain-computer interface currently available could result in ‘brain hacking,’ which remains purely speculative fiction. Sadly, it does not negate the possibility of a neural interface that can upload memories or boost intellect, causing unforeseen issues if the wrong information is maliciously included. Harvard Business Review pointed out that there are other ways to abuse this technology as it is implemented. Muse, the developer of a headband that senses what is going on in your brain, can gauge engagement, among other metrics. It’s not much of a stretch to see how employers could leverage this tech to unfairly discipline or fire employees who get distracted at work.
Can You Invest In BCIs
Most brain-computer interface companies are privately held. However, there are a few you can add to your portfolio to help round it out or further diversify. The list below includes three of the best BCI companies that are publicly traded. We always recommend doing your due diligence before making any stock purchases. Trimble (TRMB)- Partnered with the privately held Nurable to boost access to BCIs for people in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries. CTRL-Labs (FB) – This company focuses on allowing humans to control their computers with their minds. According to CNBC, CTRL-Labs was purchased by Facebook in 2019. NeuroPace (NPCE)- NeuroPace has targeted its efforts on seizure patients with Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) technology that can detect and respond to abnormal brainwaves.
Bonus: Brain Chip Holdings (BRCHF)
This company isn’t building BCI technology despite the name. However, its innovative neural network is based on the human brain could lead to future advances in the sector. If you are looking for a similar stock that is building computers that act like brains, instead of those that integrate with them directly, this could be the one your portfolio needs.
While there are drawbacks to brain-computer interface technology, like the potential for abuse and the need for further development. Yet the rewards and potential of BCI’s far outweigh the risks and solvable problems. Brain-computer interfaces allow you to use your mind to control technology. It could someday help you regain lost memories, or even upgrade your organic processing capabilities. Doctors will eventually be able to do surgeries from other parts of the world by connecting to devices that can make precision cuts no human hand could replicate. Not to mention, video games are going to be a lot more interesting as BCI gains traction. Investing in this technology now, in its infancy, could be like investing in computers in the 1970s or 1980s, very profitable.